Canada's top court lets ex-mogul Black sue critics

OTTAWA Thu Apr 19, 2012 2:39pm EDT

Conrad Black and his wife Barbara Amiel leave federal court in Chicago, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress

Conrad Black and his wife Barbara Amiel leave federal court in Chicago, June 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/John Gress

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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Wednesday that former newspaper mogul Conrad Black is entitled to pursue libel suits in Ontario against the authors of a report that said he ran his U.S.-based media company, Hollinger International Inc, like a "corporate kleptocracy".

Black, 67, is currently serving a prison sentence in Florida for fraud and obstruction of justice and expects to be released next month. His spokesman Adam Daifallah said Black was delighted with the Canadian court's ruling.

But an agreement to settle the defamation suits and other court actions, reached after the Supreme Court heard the case in March 2011, could render the ruling moot.

Black has sought more than C$2.3 billion ($2.3 billion) in damages in his libel suits. The defendants are Richard Breeden, a former head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who spearheaded a 2004 Hollinger committee report on Black's practices (r.reuters.com/gev67s), along with three committee members and other former Hollinger directors.

The report said Black, a former Canadian citizen who is now a member of the British House of Lords, looted publisher Hollinger International of hundreds of millions of dollars. Black denies the charge.

Hollinger used to own Britain's Daily Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post, the Chicago Sun-Times and many other papers.

In a statement on Wednesday, Daifallah said Black and the defendants had entered into a memorandum of understanding to resolve these legal actions as well as others in the United States.

"The settlement remains subject to court approvals in Ontario and Delaware and, once approved, disposes of these actions notwithstanding the Supreme Court's favorable decision today," Daifallah said. No money has yet been exchanged.

Earlier, he characterized the agreement as enforceable and as one that would not be affected by the Supreme Court decision.

The defendants say their comments were justified, and they were doing what was required under U.S. securities law.

The Supreme Court dismissed arguments by the defendants that Black was a "libel tourist" who shopped for the easiest jurisdiction to win his case. Black had filed a number of libel lawsuits not connected to this case.

Black's lawyers argued his reputation was more tied to Ontario than anywhere else, even though Black gave up Canadian citizenship. Black is now a British citizen.

The case is Richard C. Breeden et al. v. Conrad Black et al. (Ont.) (33900).

($1=$0.99 Canadian)

(Editing by Paul Simao)

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